writing

The Half-Assed Holiday Writing Challenge

The holiday season has arrived once again, and sure, that can be all-consuming. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a little time writing.

And by a little, I mean a very little.

Because we can’t do all the things all the time, but we CAN do some of the things some of the time. Which brings us to . . .

The First Annual Half-Assed Holiday Writing Challenge!

Yes, you read that right. This challenge is one part writing, one part community, and two (or more) (perhaps many more) (oh god is it January yet?!) parts vodka-spiked eggnog and matzah crackers for breakfast.

What it’s all about:

Writing. We love it. We need it. We don’t always have time for it. Especially during the winter holidays.

But the Half-Assed Holiday Writing Challenge? We can manage that (probably) (maybe) (more vodka-spiked eggnog, please).

Here’s how it works: I’ve provided twenty six intriguing prompts to spark your poetry/fiction/journaling/pick-your-favorite-writing-flavor.

You pick ten of those.

Yep. Just ten.

And you write on those, one at a time, over the course of December, as you are able.

Because we can’t do all the things all the time, but we can do some of the things some of the time, and maybe some of those things can involve a smidge of writing.

Are you in? First, enter your email for some friendly reminders and only slightly sarcastic encouragement:

Then post this graphic with the hashtag #sheofthewildwrites on your favorite social media platform:

We start December 1st (I’ll shoot ya another email then, just to help rev your writerly engines).

And! If you want some more fun and support, come join our free She of the Wild creativity circle on ye olde Facebookes. We have a great introverted time not talking to each other very much.

See you in December!

My Favorite Writing Podcasts

I adore podcasts. Making them, and listening to them. Any time I'm in the car, or cleaning the house, or washing the dishes, or going for a walk, or running on the treadmill, you can bet that I'm absorbing some podcast at the same time.

I tend to listen to mostly creativity podcasts and business podcasts, as well as a couple of spirituality podcasts. And lately, every time I listen to the podcasts about creativity, I think about how I need to help boost the signal on this wonderful (free!) resources.

So here I am, doing just that. Keep reading if you want to add some seriously awesome, inspirational, and instructive podcasts to your life.

1. I Should Be Writing

I think Mur Lafferty's I Should Be Writing is the first podcast I ever listened to. It was back in 2005 (wow, how is that over 10 years ago? sheesh), and I was a former Jersey girl just moved to the Rocky Mountains to be the sole employee on a ranch that served as an animal sanctuary, in the middle of nowhere.

I had a lot of work to do, and I did 99% of it alone, and much of it was physical labor that left my mind unoccupied.

So I occupied it with podcasts. Primarily, I Should Be Writing.

Mur started ISBW as a way to help keep herself on track with her own writing, which she struggled for consistency in (hence the title). She has read her own books aloud on the show (hello, Heaven series, I remember you!) but mostly it is a podcast that is perfect for beginning writers. Mur shares great tips and pieces of advice for writers, and also discusses her own personal struggles, successes, and more. I love the sense of companionship this podcast brings me. Even after listening to it for over 10 years (dear god that makes me feel old), I still get so much out of it.

Listen here.

2. Ditch Diggers

Ditch Diggers is the meaner, drunker, and more technical version of ISBW. This is run by Mur Lafferty again, as well as her intrepid cohost, Matt F*cking Wallace (I am not kidding). While ISBW is intended for new writers that need encouragement, Ditch Diggers is created for seasoned writers that need to know about the business of writing -- about keeping on digging those ditches (it's a metaphor, okay).

It's crass, it's hilarious, it's fun to listen to, and most of all it's filled with really important conversations about writing and making money off of it that not too many people are having -- and we need to have those conversations. And they host great interviews with writer pros that are not to be missed.

Mur and Matt also field listener questions (they answered one of mine last year, and it literally made me so fangirlishly happy), so be sure to tweet at or email them if you have something you'd like them to discuss.

Listen here.

3. The Couragemakers Podcast

This podcast from Meg of That Hummingbird Life is not solely about writing. It's about making, doing, and being in any and all ways, and provides sparkly, kind kicks in the pants. We all know that creating, writing, and making is not always easy, and definitely not for the faint of heart. It can be hard, and it can be scary.

Meg is here to help you keep on going and keep believing in yourself and your work. In her words, it will help you make the world a better place. Tune in for real talk, encouragement, and interviews with some fantastic guests. It is guaranteed to leave you feeling warm, fuzzy, and inspired.

Listen here.

4. Smart B*tches, Trashy Books

I listen to the Smart B*tches for fun. And they are fun. I mean, isn't the name of their podcast and site just fun? ALL HAIL THE B*TCHES.

Seriously, though, this is a great podcast all about the romance genre. Not necessarily writing it, although they certainly talk about that sometimes, and always interview authors. Instead, it is generally geared for romance readers. On the podcast as well as the SBTB website you can find reviews, recommendations, and a ton of great interviews.

Okay, I don't listen to this podcast just for fun. I also listen to it because it keeps me going when I feel like my own writing career will never "get there," or I feel like romance might not actually be real art (whatever that means), or whatever. When I need my sass cup filled up, I go to the Smart B*tches. They have never failed me yet.

Listen here.

Okay I've told you mine, now you tell me yours -- what are some of your favorite writing/creativity/bookish podcasts?

And! Did you know that there's a She of the Wild podcast? There is! Listen in here.

Join Our April 2018 Daily Writing Challenge

Want to work on developing your daily writing habit? Come join our free daily writing challenge, because forming new creative habits is more fun when done with a community of like-minded writers and artists.

You are invited to join our April 2018 daily writing challenge, hosted on Instagram.

Daily, use the prompt of the day to inspire and fuel your writing practice. Maybe the prompt will be a warmup, or help you through a sticky spot in your novel, or the spark for a new poem.

It doesn't matter, and whatever you choose to write is great. The point is just to write, and then keep writing, everyday.

If you'd like to join in on the communal aspect of the writing challenge on social media, be sure to tag your related posts with #sheofthewildwrites.

And if you are looking to take it a step further and do this challenge with a writing, we've got you covered there, too -- come join our free writing community on Facebook.

Are you ready? We start tomorrow, April 1st!

When In Doubt, Go On the Adventure

I bought the ticket on a whim, just a few weeks before departure. After dreaming of a trip to England for most of my life, I saw an opening, felt the chill of winter at the back of the wardrobe, and ran after it.

I like to know things. I like to know what is coming next. But I also cherish the unknown, the mystery of how a whole universe spins around us every day. I crave adventure.

At first, in the days after my ticket purchase, I felt like a badass. Like a woman who takes charge of her own damn destiny. But of course that quickly gave way to fear (we'll come back to that in a minute).

And then a conversation with a new friend, in which I found myself making excuses for my passions and how I haven't been pursuing them. I am made to write, I said, sipping at a pint of Porter, but there's no time.

There's always time, though. And also never time. We only have now, and in the now, we have all the time we need.

I bought the ticket because I'm thirty-five years old and if not now, when? I never believed I was immortal, but lived as if I had no end. There was always plenty of time, endless time, until, like the rest of us, I learned the hard way that that's not the case.

Life ends and begins in a moment, and if I have the time and the willingness and the dream to do a thing, a thing that brings joy and that challenges and delights and grows the self -- why am I not doing it now? Why am I waiting for tomorrow, which may never come?

I bought the ticket.

I haven't begun writing again (unless you count this post), but I feel the words calling.

I am afraid.

Afraid that the flesh and blood adventure I'm taking, the trip that has turned into something of a pilgrimage, won't stand up to the one I've dreamed of for decades. That I'll be crippled by anxiety or laid low by depression (these fears are not unfounded). Afraid that the words will come out stilted and broken, that they don't matter, that nothing matters in the end.

I am writing this from the airport, where the unknown stories of the travelers traipsing, the different skin tones, the slow dance of the planes outside both soothe and excite me.

I am here, taking the first steps of the adventure. I am writing, perhaps stilted, perhaps broken.

In the end, I will have gone on the trip and returned. I will have picked up the proverbial pen and used it. I will not have to wonder "what if," and although the fear is real, my gut says that even if this is all that these ventures give me, it will be enough.

Join Our January 2018 Daily Writing Challenge

It's the new year, and we all have creative goals that we're planning on crushing. So let's do it together, and make it more fun!

You are invited to join our January 2018 daily writing challenge, hosted on Instagram.

Daily, use the prompt of the day to inspire and fuel your writing practice. Maybe the prompt will be a warmup, or help you through a sticky spot in your novel, or the spark for a new poem.

It doesn't matter, and whatever you choose to right is great. The point is just to write, and then keep writing, everyday.

If you'd like to join in on the communal aspect of the writing challenge on social media, be sure to tag your related posts with #sheofthewildwrites.

And if you are looking to take it a step further and do this challenge with a writing, we've got you covered there, too -- come join our free writing community on Facebook.

Are you ready? We start tomorrow!

Words are Like Water

Words are like water, washing

and washing us with their truth --

or otherwise drowning

us if we won't allow it, healing turned

to windswept tumult to get our

ever-wandering attention. They are

everywhere, reach everywhere, patient

enough to hollow out caverns

in the deep, strong enough to 

tumble down the thin and ruinous

beliefs we clutch the closest. In

time, with ruthless endurance,

everything they touch transforms.

 

"A story is like water / that you heat for your bath. / It takes messages between the fire / and your skin. It lets them meet, / and it cleans you! / . . . Water, stories, the body, / all the things we do, are mediums / that hide and show what's hidden. / Study them, / and enjoy this being washed / with a secret we sometimes know, / and then not."

- from The Essential Rumi

 

* This post contains an affiliate link. I only endorse products I truly love. Thank you for support indie authors + artists!

I Want to Write a Poem Just for You

The idea first came as one of showing up in process. A table at our local weekly summer crafts market, selling art and custom poems hand-typed on the spot on a vintage typewriter. A chance happening for market shoppers to be deeply, magically met on their Saturday morning meanderings.

And then I thought -- why not offer this to my online community? Because I believe it will be even more beautifully received when offered right to you, my moon-loving, word-scribbling, intuition-diving fellow humans.

Basically, I want to write a poem for you -- just for you.

A custom, one-of-a-kind, intimate, intuitive gift of love and support from you to you (with me as the middle woman).

➳ So here's how it works: in the "notes to seller" section, share with me a few words/themes/ideas/images that you'd like me to incorporate into a poem for you. Or, if you'd like even more of an adventure, you don't have to share anything with me, but simply trust my intuition and God/fate/[insert your favorite divine guiding principle here] to write the words you need to hear.

➳ You'll received your poem typed via a vintage typewriter on 8.5 x 11" (letter size) paper 100% cotton paper in your choice of ivory or white. Poems are guaranteed to be at least 10 lines long, but may be far longer, depending on your prompts and where the poem takes us.

I can also create a custom poem as a gift for a loved one. In fact, these make deeply powerful and personal presents.

Poems normally take 1-2 weeks to write, and then will be shipped First Class (arrives within 5 days). For speedier shipping, check out the Priority (arrives in 2-3 days) and Express (arrives in 24-48 hours) shipping upgrades. All packages come with tracking numbers.

To view a free sample of Night Cycles, my poetry collection, and get a sense of my writing, please head over HERE.

☽ It would truly be my honor to craft a poem for you and yours! ☾

You in? Order yours HERE!

You NEED To Pursue Your Creative Goals + Dreams

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." - Marianne Williamson


I've been seeing a similar flavor of creative insecurity has been coming up [again] lately in my creative world, both for myself and for others, such as my Soul Coaching writers and some She of the Wild community members. It's the whole, "Who am I to write/dance/paint/publish/think that other people want to take in my creative work?" thang.

Maybe that sounds familiar? I know it's certainly an inner gremlin that rears its cranky little head for me regularly, especially when I'm in a time of growth, and that I need to work past again and again.

And it's okay that similar themes of resistance rise more than once in our creative lives. I think that life operates in a spiral more than along a straight line, and every time a challenge comes up afresh, we are offered new opportunities to growth more, know deeper, and integrate ourSelves more fully. This is not a bad thing! And in fact it's really quite a good thing, even while it's also kind of sort of really a pain in the butt.

If you've been in the creativity game a little while, you've likely run across the above words from Marianne Williamson as well. And maybe they feel a little trite to you right now, or a bit tired. But what if, just maybe, there's truth in them -- for you? For you now?

Because, as she says, this creativity thing isn't in just some of us; it's in all of us, and it's for all of us. Yes, even yours.

But forget about other people. Think about you, five or ten years from now. Hold two scenarios before you in your mind. In one, you've done your "how dare I think I'm all that to try this thing" thing, and you've failed -- you wrote and published a book, say, and it wasn't read all that much, but you're still pretty proud of it regardless. And in the other scenario, you never even tried.

Now ask yourself: which scenario feels better? The one where you gave it your all, and did your gorgeous creative thing, and expressed what was in your soul to express, in spite of all that felt stacked against you? Or the one where you're still wondering what might have been?

Which would you prefer: to live with the knowledge that you did your best and did yourself proud, no matter how the creative endeavor turned out, and to have reaped the benefit of just hours spent in experience and practice of your art, or to live with the regret of holding you creative dream(s) unexpressed?

I can't tell you which is the better option for you. Only you get to decide that.

But for me, I know that hands down I would rather try and risk and fail than sit in relative comfort and safety paired with regret.

Know, too, that your risk doesn't have to be unchecked. You don't have to bankrupt yourself or move halfway around the world or quit your job or get divorced or anything drastic like that. But some calculated risk? That can go a long way in getting you closer to the creative life you want to be living, not to mention helping you heal from the grumblings of your "Who are you to be awesome?" gremlins.

So why not try? Or take a baby step or two toward trying?

And whenever those frustrating gremlins come to call (again . . . ) asking, "Who are you to do this?" ask yourself: who and how do you want to be in this life, and how will working on your creative goals or not working toward your creative goals help you get there?

And then act accordingly.


If you know that you DO want to pursue your creative goals + dreams, but don't quite know how, or simply need some company while you do so, check out my 6 week writing e-course, She Writes Wild. You'll come away with more know-how, more confidence, more community, and LOTS of words written. Find out more HERE.

Procrastination is a Form of Self-Torture {She of the Wild: The Podcast}

Confession time: I've been letting fear stop me. I let myself get tied up with "shoulds" and fears of what would happen if, when I sat down to write or paint, the results would be less than "good" (whatever "good" even means). And while fear and procrastination are natural (if kind of yucky) parts of the creative life, there are ways to evade their grasp.

In episode 7 we talk about my own particular struggles in this area lately, why procrastination is a form of self-torture in the life of an artist, and how habit is a safe vessel that we can ride through the more murky waters that we all inevitably encounter on our creative journeys.

Subscribe in iTunes, or listen right here:

Come hang with us in the She of the Wild Facebook community + share with us how you move past fear and procrastination.

Like today's episode? I think you might really my upcoming e-course, Embrace Your Sacred Space. If you sign up by August 1, you save $50!

Holistic Creative Circle: An Interview with Hali Karla

Recently I had the fantastic opportunity to be interviewed by the amazing Hali Karla, who is the mastermind behind the fantastic holistic creativity class, SPECTRUM (which I also am delighted to be a part of).

In our conversation, I share about a time when creativity was a catalyst for healing, and we also talk about balancing the tough stuff with the ability to soften in our day-to-day. Dance may also have come up. ;) You can watch the interview here:

Thanks for checking it out! If you're interested in learning more about SPECTRUM, you can do so HERE.

 

 

You are Creative Right Now

I was thinking about you early this morning (yes, you, lovely reader + SHE OF THE WILD community member). I was awake, sleepless, and then my ten month old woke up, too, and could not be consoled. Cradling him in my arms, I paced the room, the two of us, both caught between slumber and wakefulness, needing and wanting a rest.

While I walked, I sang. Hummed, really. It was not meant to be a real song.

But I realized, even through my 3:00 AM bleariness, that it was a song.

In the most unlikely of circumstances, without much in the way of formal training, I was creating music. Out of nowhere and nothing, notes came from between my weary lips and into the world.

In the darkness, it felt like a miracle.

And I thought of you. I wanted to share this miracle with you.

Because maybe you think that you're "not creative" -- which is what we say when we mean that we don't naturally possess near-genius level talent in the arts: writing, painting, drawing, and other fine arts.

But just because you weren't practically born with a paintbrush in your hand doesn't meant that you're not creative.

I think that we are all creative, and my too-early-morning song proves that to me.

I am not a musician. I am not trying to become a musician, either professional or hobbyist. I have not touched an instrument in over a decade. And yet, I sang, without effort, and it was lovely and sweet and sent my son back to dreamland.

Why do we discount such acts of creation? Are they less valuable because they are small, or wouldn't make money, or just done in the middle of everyday life?

What if something like my sleepy lullaby is made more valuable by its smallness, its lack of monetary value, its simplicity, its impermanence?

When did I lose my sense of wonder at such things? When did you?

And -- perhaps most importantly -- how can we take it back?

The only answer I have is to press in to your small miracles even as you chase your bigger creative goals. They are all water from the same well.

Self-Publishing Toolkit: 4 Essentials for Authors

One of the questions I get asked most often is:

How can I self-publish my manuscript? What do I need? How do I turn my pile of ideas into a polished book?

(Okay, that's three questions.)

Self-publishing is not for everyone. If you're looking to get rich quick without a lot of work . . . well, look elsewhere.

But! If you're a writer who puts in the time and effort to make her work as strong and polished as possible, who cares deeply about his reader, then I've got my top recommended tools to turn you from writerly hopeful into published author.

Are you ready? Okay, let's go.

1. Something to write on, digitally speaking

The first must-have every self-publishing author needs is something to create your manuscript with. This can be as simple as your basic word processor -- Open Office Writer is a great free option available for both PC and Mac.

If you'd like to save yourself some time and sanity and make your manuscript look much more professional with much less effort, you may want to upgrade to Scrivener. I wrote and published my novel, The Light Between Us, with Open Office, and then used Scrivener for my next book, Night Cycles. I will never go back to Open Office for work I'm going to publish to Kindle. Nope nope nope. If you have the extra cash, I'd recommend trying out Scrivener for a free test drive to see what you think.

You don't need Scrivener, of course. Open Office and Microsoft Word will do just fine. But you need some kind of word processor. If you don't have one, you need to get one ASAP. I'll wait.

2. Be Your Own Publisher from Lucy Pearce

Okay, so you've got your word processor of choice downloaded. But now you're looking at your manuscript and wondering how in the world you're going to be able to turn it into a professional looking book, much less defeat the frustrating + tricksy wiles of Kindle.

In between publishing The Light Between Us and Night Cycles, I purchased Lucy Pearce's e-course, Be Your Own Publisher.

This course was hands-down the best investment I have ever made in my writer career. Seriously, ever.

In Be Your Own Publisher, Lucy covers everything -- e v e r y t h i n g -- from writing your first draft to editing to cover design to navigating CreateSpace to formatting for print and Kindle to self-care.

I cannot begin to tell you the amount of tooth-gnashing and hair-rending Be Your Own Publisher saved me. But you can go look at the innards of The Light Between Us and Night Cycles in Amazon's free "look inside" feature to see just how much Lucy's course taught me. My books went from looking super n00b-ish to polished and professional solely because of Be Your Own Publisher.

Do yourself a favor. Get this course.

3. A Good Proofreader

Another asset that you cannot do without as you seek to self-publish your book is a good proofreader. This might be your mom, or your writing accountability buddy that you're swapping critiques with, or someone that you hire.

Whatever you choose, you absolutely need someone else's eyes on your manuscript to help catch copy errors. Because you will miss your own errors. I learned this the hard way. Don't be like me.

4. A Professional Cover Designer

With free + low-cost options like Canva available, it's really tempting to try to create our own book covers. I mean, that's money saved!

Except that a good professional cover designer can elevate the professional look of your book in a way that you probably can't on your own, because they've got loads more experience at graphic design than we writers do. And a more professional looking cover means that more new readers are likely to take a chance on your work.

I've written and published three books. I designed the cover for two of them, and hired a designer for the other. I bet you can guess just by looking at them which one I made.

My favorite cover designer? Paper and Sage Design. You can choose from her cache of pre-made covers, or spend a little more to get a custom design. Both options are very reasonably priced, and she can create some social media banners to match your book's cover as well.

Some Nice Extras . . .

If you're looking to go the extra mile with your self-published book, you might also want to purchase your own ISBN to help support bookstores who sell your work and/or invest in some Facebook ads when your book is available. But if this is your first time out, the above four essentials are what I recommend you focus your energy and assets on. You've got this!

Whew! Are you still with me? That might sound like a lot, but getting your book out on your terms is not as difficult as you might think. (And I'm serious on checking out Lucy's e-course. It will eliminate SO. MUCH. overwhelm.)

And! I have a lovely freebie that will be of huge benefit to you if you're looking to publish a poetry manuscript soon, but need a little help putting the darn thing together. It's a 13 page e-book called How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, and it's available for immediate download -- for FREE (I know, right?!).

In How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, I walk you through how to take that pile of poems you've written and turn it into a cohesive, enjoyable text.

Ready to download it? Enter your info below and I'll email your copy of How To Assemble Your Poetry Book right away:

Get Your Free Copy!

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In How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, I walk you through how to take that pile of poems you've written and turn it into a cohesive, enjoyable text. Huzzah!

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Enjoy!

 

*This post contains affiliate links. I only promote products that I adore. Thanks for supporting independent authors + artists!

What Happened to Me After I Started Writing

“The beginning is always today.” ― Mary Shelley

I’ve loved the written word for nearly as long as I can remember. From “reading” (a.k.a. reciting from memory) The Little Red Hen to my mother as a three-ish year old to submitting a 30+ page mini-novel in response to my eleventh grade English teacher’s short story assignment to earning a degree in creative writing — I love words. Reading them, writing them, or gluing them into my art journal, I am a word junkie.

So it may surprise you to hear that I’ve only been practicing a regular writing habit for the last eight years.

You see, from childhood, I operated under the misconception that writing only mattered if it was going to be seen by someone else. So any time I had any kind of a creative writing assignment in elementary school, high school, and beyond, I went all in on it.

But on my own time? I did a whole lot of nothing.

Well, that’s not true. I read. I glowered at new authors’ books as they blossomed on our local book shop’s shelves, full of resentment (I mean, really — who did they think they were publishing a book? the nerve!). I perused Writer’s Market and calls for submission, only to turn away in panic, because scary deadlines. I pined away for a publication contract of my own, but did little in the way of actually pursuing one. I listened to writing podcasts, but never implemented the advice I heard. I participated in (and won!) National Novel Writing Month, but never did anything with my rough drafts — even the ones that weren’t half bad.

So I did spend a whole lot of time and energy thinking about writing, and being jealous of others who were writing and publishing. But I also let fear shackle me.

Until 2007, when I started a blog.

It wasn’t my first blog (Livejournal of 2004, I’m looking at you), but it was my first serious attempt at one. And by “serious attempt,” I mean a space in which I wrote regularly, regardless of how many people were (or, more accurately, weren’t) reading it.

In short, I blogged for me.

And I kept doing it. For years. Eight years and counting at this point. My focus evolved over time (like, a lot — I started out as a food blogger), but still — I wrote and hit “publish” regularly.

At first, it felt weird. Even with a lifelong adoration of the written word and a degree (with honors!) in creative writing from a prestigious liberal arts college . . . it felt awkward. Clumsy. Like writing into a void (which, let’s be honest, is what a lot of internet writing is).

But I kept on. And, eventually, I noticed that things were different. I was different.

What Happened After I Started (and Kept) Writing

It took three or so years, but one day, I realized that I was stronger than I was before I started my little blog.

I was a better writer than I had been. My technique was better. The resulting posts were better.

I created connections. I made friends with other bloggers, participated in hops and challenges, and both wrote guest posts and published others’ words on my blog. In a word, I was supported.

I was much more confident. The blank page no longer seemed quite as intimidating. In fact, I was so much more confident that I self-published my first book. And that confidence bled into all areas of my life, not just my work as a writer.

I took myself more seriously. No longer did I long to be a writer — I was a writer. I was writing, regularly, and sharing my work with the world. Maybe I wasn’t the next Anne Lamott (yet…!) (#bigdreams), but I was doing the work.

And, eventually, all of this combined to give me the, ahem, balls and belief in my own work to self-publish not only a fun little romance, but also a born-of-my-bloody-heart poetry collection — a.k.a. to take my writer-self from hobbyist to professional.

All because I started writing — for myself.

How to Get From Here to There

I think so many of us who long with the fire of a thousand suns to Be A Professional Writer balk at taking the actual steps toward making that dream happen because the road seems so long.

And it is. I’m not going to lie to you — it’s a long road. Countless hours of dedicated work that most people will never know, pouring your soul into words that maybe no one will ever read.

But

long as it may be, that road is the way from here to your writer dreams turned reality.

And really, it’s worth it. Now, looking back at 8 years of being a writer who writes (on top of a degree, honors, and all that came before), I can see how worth it is. I mean — people have read and are reading my books. Maybe not thousands of people. Maybe not even hundreds of people. But people are reading my books, and my words have changed small pieces of the world, and my heart is filled with delicious fire that I’m doing this work.

That’s the dream, right? Regardless of audience size, that is the dream.

And your journey from here to living right into the middle of that dream?

It begins today.

The Poety Is eCourse is BACK . . . with a Giveaway!

Poetry Is . . . is back!

My 6 week writing ecourse designed to help you fall in love with poetry again is open for registration again! You can find out all the details and register HERE . . . or keep reading for a lusicious giveaway + your chance to win a free spot in the course.

But first, a little about Poetry Is . . .

A ROLLICKING ADVENTURE IN WORDPLAY + SELF-DISCOVERY

We all remember it -- how, sometime around the time the girls in our class starting sprouting breasts and the boys' chins blossomed into the uncertain beginnings of beards, the fun poetry of our childhood gave way to The Reading, Memorization, and Exegesis of Very Serious Poems. 

Suddenly, we weren't playing with limericks for the silliness and enjoyment of it, but for the academics of it. Poetry transformed into an awkward, heavy, and undecipherable behemoth of a thing. And if we couldn't even understand half the poems we were required to read for English class, how in the world could we ever dream of writing our own, no matter how the words within us called for it?

But: 

what if it didn't have to be like that?

What if poetry could be fun again?

What if poetry could be light? 

What if we could read poetry with understanding?

What if poetry could be:

silly / sacred / informative / cathartic / playful / approachable / flexible / happy / awesome / an adventure / {fill in your favorite "What if?" here}?

WHAT IF POETRY ALREADY IS ALL OF THESE THINGS AND MORE, BUT YOU JUST DIDN'T KNOW IT?

I believe that it is. 

For everybody.

For you.

Here. Now. In real time. In the midst of your busy life.

Discover all the juicy details here.

The Giveaway

Up for grabs is one free spot in Poetry Is. Huzzah! To enter, simply enter your email in the form below.

For extra entries, share this post on your favorite social media site, then tell me you did so in the comments. The giveaway closes + the winner is announced on Thursday, February 18.

And!! Anyone who enters the giveaway will receive an exclusive coupon code to get Poetry Is for 25% off. So even if you don't get the free spot, you still win big.

Enter the giveaway by submitting your details here:

Find Your Words {Free LIVE Writing Class!}

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The next round of Find Your Words is coming up on Monday, February 22, at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST. Yay!

Sign up here to reserve your spot, or keep reading to find out more:

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Are you looking for help getting over your fear in writing, or your procrastination? Or maybe you simply need some inspiration and companionship for the journey. Then you'll love my free writing class, Find Your Words. In this free webinar, you'll be learning about a key foundation for your writing career, plus one surprising place you can go to find inspiration. You'll take away:

  • a low-stress way to find inspiration and get words down on paper — that you’re probably already doing
  • the beginnings of a daily writing habit
  • the confidence to trust your own creativity + words
  • PLUS you'll come away with the first draft of a written poem (or other piece of writing in the format of your choice)

In this class we'll be working with poetry, but the takeaways are applicable for whatever kind of writing you do, be it poetry, fiction, memoir, etc. For more info watch this video (and please disregard the timing mentioned! we'll be meeting February 22 at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST):

Enter your email below to save your spot in Find Your Words:

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I'll see you on February 22!


Introducing She Writes Wild + Free Sample!

If you follow me on Instagram or Periscope, you may have heard me mumbling somewhat incoherently about a writing course that I've been working on. Incoherently because that's how I get when I'm in creation mode -- laser focused on the goal, with not a lot of energy to spare for extras like breathing or forming cohesive sentences. 

But I'm coming up for air now that the course is pretty much finished (!!!). She Writes Wild is a 6 week e-course in wordplay and self-discovery that will help you find your words, equip you to grow as a writer, and lead you into a deeper + more vibrant understanding of yourself. 

Sound intriguing? You can learn more HERE.

But that's not why I'm writing today. Nope, today is all about giving you the first section of She Writes Wild for free.

Yep, you get a whole week of the course FOR FREE, right here, right now. Are you ready? Let's go . . . !


She Writes Wild

Week One: Poetry as Play

“Poetry doesn't have to rhyme, it just has to touch someone where your hands couldn’t.”

— Rudy Akbarian (source)

I don’t know about you, but for the longest time, whenever I heard the word poetry my mind would recall agonizing over dense stanzas, trying to suss out their seemingly indistinguishable meanings, and attempting to recreate Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. Meaning: poetry felt difficult, obtuse, and impossible to understand. It felt painful, like drudgery, like a whole lot of work with very little reward.

But — does it have to be? That’s what we’ll be exploring this week.

 

Poetry is For Everybody

“Poems hang out where life is.”

— Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Poemcrazy

Poetry wasn’t always an exercise in masochism. Think back to when you were a child, to the limericks your teacher had you pen and the sing-songing rhymes you sang and silly stories you were read in verse. Were these poems impossible, or headache-inducing? Probably not.

And yet, they are poetry.

Hang on. I can practically hear you thinking, “Well, sure, it’s poetry . . . but poetry for kids. That’s different.”

Nope. Not different. Poetry. And written by respectable, “real” poets. 

Take a few minutes to read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” and then “Dream Variations” by Langston Hughes. Next, consider the following:

  • what do these poems feel like to read? 
  • how do they challenge your preexisting notions of what poetry is?
  • based on these poems, how might you redefine poetry?
  • how have your feelings about writing poetry changed, if at all?

Feel free to journal on any or all of these questions, and to chat about it in the Facebook group.

 

Poetry Doesn’t Have to be Impossible

What if we threw out the notion that so many of us picked up in high school that poetry has to be impossible, impenetrable, and pain-filled? What if we found ourselves free to write a understandable story in verse form, like “Paul Revere’s Ride,” or to communicate our experiences of nightfall as Hughes does so lyrically and accessibly in “Dream Variations”?

What if poetry wasn’t just for the ivory tower, for academia, but for all of us?

I believe that this is true. 

And, more to the point, I believe that it is true for you.

“Is this play, poetry, art or silliness? Who cares?”

— Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Poemcrazy

 

The Freedom to Write

I’ve wanted to be a writer for about as long as I can remember. And for me, “being a writer” meant writing fiction books. But interestingly, as an adolescent, whenever I gave myself freedom to write just for me, and not for a school assignment, I found poems tumbling from my pen.

At the very same time that I was struggling through poetry units in school, I was freely creating my own poems at home.

But I dismissed my poetry writing. It felt too easy, not at all like the poems I had to read for school. It couldn’t possible be “real” poetry, I thought, because it was far too opaque, too accessible.

Except — I was wrong. And since giving my poems a chance to stand on their own, I’ve found that they have the strength to do so. Even though they’re not brain twisters. Even though they’re written for you and me, and not only for the highest thinkers (whatever that means!).  

Maybe your story goes a little like this, too. Maybe you’ve long held beliefs about the legitimacy of your words, the value of your poems. 

I’m here to tell you — it’s time to release those beliefs. They are shackles to your creativity and, as a result, to your personal vitality. 

If you have poems that you want to write, or even if you just want to see if you can write poetry, then do it. Let yourself. And then let yourself believe that they are true and real and valuable, for yourself and the world.

 

Accessible Doesn’t Have to Mean Simplistic

I think that there is another common misconception that leads to us devaluing accessible poetry: that, if a poem is understandable, it somehow is less important, less meaningful, less powerful.

This is not the case. Take Shel Silverstein’s poem “Listen to the Mustn’ts.” Silverstein’s feisty, often-silly poetry was a huge craze in my school when I was ten years old. Kids were reading it on their own, unprompted by parents or teachers, for fun. 

And yet — this poem. It is comprehensible, accessible — but packs a punch. It hits me right in the feels. It is the encouragement that I need to read everyday of my life. 

Or consider another poem by Silverstein, “Forgotten Language.” This is from The Giving Tree, which we’ll come back to later in the course. Even though this is a very simple poem, without complicated vocabulary, obtuse imagery, or meticulous composed rhyme and meter, I find it hard-hitting. There is so much emotion here, and so many rich levels of meaning — yet, again, it is comprehensible to readers of nearly any reading ability. 

There is nothing wrong with poetry that is dense or hard to understand. But often the difficulties we had with poetry during our education negatively impact our abilities to write or believe in our own poems. 

How do Silverstein’s words inspire you? How do they challenge you?

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

 

Writing Assignment for Week One: Find Some Poetry

For our first assignment, let’s have some fun and create found poems. According to the Academy of American Poets, “Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems” (source).

Here’s one way I go about creating a found poem.

Found poetry is a great way to ease into writing poems. There is no blank page to face down, no words to conjure up. Instead, all you have to do is play. 

Have fun, and share your creations in the Facebook group!

 

Reading for Week One

Read sections one (Following Words) and two (Listening to Ourselves) of Poemcrazy.

 

Fill-the-Well Adventure Assignment

Go to the library and check out a children’s book. Read it. 

 

Bonus Reading

How to Be Creative When You Are Busy by Joe Bunting

How to Overcome the Fear of Sharing Your Writing in Public by Leo Babauta

Newspaper Blackout Poems by Diana Adams

My Inspiration Comes From My Weirdness by Ksenia Anske

Interview with Billy Collins from The Paris Review

 

Bonus Writing Assignments

Complete the practice activities from this week’s reading of Poemcrazy.

“Play around. Dive into absurdity and write. Take chances. You will succeed if you are fearless of failure.” 

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones


Like what you see? Want more?

Check out all the details about She Writes Wild here!

My Perfectly Imperfect Book Launch

I wrote a book.  And published it.  It's out there in the world right now, being both read and not read, as books are.  People own it.  This is exhilarating.  This is terrifying.

So.  Wondering how my indie book launch went?  Here's the good, the bad, the ugly, and the next-thing, plus a brief reflection on what I'll do differently the next time around.

The Good

Nearly 5,000 people downloaded a free Kindle copy of The Light Between Us.  A couple purchased a print copy, and a nice handful bought the Kindle edition after the freebie period ended.  It was ranked in the top 100 books in the free Kindle store, and was #1 and #2 in a couple of the free romance categories.  My expectations were exceeded by lightyears upon lightyears.  This is not just good.  This is really, really, really (really!) good. 

Also, my mother downloaded my book and read it in about a day, and then wrote to tell me that she loved it.  I can't tell you how much this means to me. 

And actually, she wasn't alone in reading The Light Between Us in a single day or so -- a number of you did.  Thank you and thank you and thank you for downloading your free copy, for reading, for the kind words you've sent me way, and for sharing my book with your friends.  I am deeply grateful. 

The Bad

I got a couple of less-than-glowing reviews.  This is not the bad thing -- opinions all over the map come with the territory of sharing your words with the world. 

The bad thing is that said reviews mentioned that my manuscript is rife with copy-editing errors.  After the first review, I scoffed.   

Editing errors?  I thought.  Are you serious?  I am a skilled writer and editor.  I graduated with honors in creative writing.  I'd never make the rookie mistake of launching a book that's less than polished, thankyouverymuch.

After the second one-star review, I stopped scoffing.  I went back into my manuscipt and started reading.

And -- felt my stomach plummet as I realized that those reviewers were right.  There really were a number of embarrassing copy-editing mistakes.  Missing words, misspellings, errant punctuations, and so forth.  And more than one or two.  

As Ruth, the protagonist of The Light Between Us might say, oh. shit.

(Humorous aside: one of these reviewers said that she was disappointed in my book's editing because my blog is so polished.  I almost never edit my blogs.  Shhh.)  ;)

The Ugly

Nearly 5,000 people own a copy of my book -- a book that I've just realized is, in spite of all my skills and editing efforts, rife with copy-editing errors.  That's not good.  This is not the ugly part, though.  

The ugly part is that this fact has filled me with shame.  My body is both weak and heavy with it.  My nerves are on edge, as if I've drunk a gallon of coffee (I haven't).  I want to hide and never stop hiding.  I want to weep.  I want to punch myself in the face.  I literally don't know how I'm going to look my family in the eyes at our Father's Day celebration later today.

(Grammar errors aside, these two reviewers also hated the story and/or characters.  Interestingly, this does not bother me at all.  I believe in my story, and have no qualms about others disliking the plot or Ruth or language choices or any of it.  Maybe the copy-editing stuff hits me so hard because that is something that's in my control?  And I do idolize my precious control.)

The Next

Okay.  Breathe, Beth, breathe.  
This is not the end.  You haven't killed your career before it even got off the ground.  

So, what's next?  Well, you'd better believe that I'm going back in for another round of copy-editing on The Light Between Us.  That's the beauty of indie publishing -- it's easily fixable.  I just hope that I don't have to eat too much grammar-flavored crow.  

And after that, I'm going back to work on my next novel.  I've mentioned it before -- a YA contemporary fantasy based loosely on Celtic myth involving magick, druidesses, and portals through time and space.  Oh yeah.  It feels like it'll be a much longer story than The Light Between Us (which is about 66,000 words, a short novel).  I'm currently 30,000 words into the Celtic-ish fantasy and am feeling like I'm only about a third into the plot.  Sign up for my newsletter if you'd like to get some sneak peeks sent to your inbox.  I might post an excerpt of two here on the blog as well.

Things I'll Do Differently Next Time

I plan on continuing to publish independently.  Because, well, I value that independence.  I make the rules.  And yeah, while that means that the burden responsibility falls on me when things go wrong, it also means that I get to keep all the profits and positives, too. 

I think I did pretty well for a first run, especially considering that I hadn't written a speck of fiction since 2010 before The Light Between Us.  But there are a few things I'd do differently:

  • Refuse to be a slave to the deadline.  I announced that my book would be available on June 14, and then thought I had to meet that deadline come hell or high water.  And when it became apparent that I could do with a few more days before launch, I thought I couldn't take those days.  I forgot that, as an indie publisher, I set the rules.  So I pushed to get the book out, rushed the last round of edits, and stressed stressed stressed.  Next time I'll just give myself the extra days.
  • Not get enough sleep.  I am a chronic not-sleep-enough-er.  I covet my time, and hate giving any of it up, even for something as important as sleep.  And I'm sure that this affected my editing capabilites.  Sigh.  Oops.  Sigh again. 
  • Enlist more editing help.  I had a number of talented folks beta read The Light Between Us -- but not for editing.  I thought I could do that all myself, and knew that I couldn't afford to hire a copy editor (a good editor, like this fabulous one, charges around $2,000 -- yikes).  But I was wrong; I needed more editing eyes.  For my Celtic-ish novel, I already have a manuscript trade lined up with a fellow writer, in which we'll swap books and tear them apart, both for copy-editing errors and plot/characterization/inconsistencies/etc. 
  • Consider not reading my reviews.  Or have my husband screen them for me, so he can point out what might be helpful criticism (like those reviewers who pointed out copy-editing issues -- as hard as that was to hear, it's also true, and I appreciate that, so thank you) versus the less constructive I just despise your writing opinions.  And yes, while I'd also miss out on reading positive reviews, I'm okay with that because I'm so hard on myself that I tend to have a difficult time truly believing praise.  Also, a dear friend pointed out to me that Brené Brown doesn't read her books' reviews and comments on her YouTube-d talks because the negative ones put her to bed for days.  And she's Brené Brown.  
  • Writing this blog post.  If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you've probably heard me talk about what a lifeline words are for me, particularly publicly processing my junk in this space.  So here I am, showing up, feeling the hard things, sifting voices, and writing my soul into sanity.  And now that I've finished, my body isn't vibrating as much, and I know this is going to be okay.   

Let me just say again -- publishing a book is terrifying.  And exhilarating.  And terrifying.  What a roller coaster I've been riding since baring my book to the world on Thursday.  Was my launch perfect?  Not by a long shot.  But I did it.  I did it.  And so can you.  That pie in the sky you've been eying?  It's not nearly as unreachable as it seems right now.  That ember of a dream you've been tending?  Fan it into flame.  Because it's important.  Because it matters, and you matter.    Because you can.  We can.  Let's hustle, and keep hustling.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be touching up The Light Between Us, and then diving back into my Celtic-ish creation.  In short, I'll be doing the work.   

What about you?

note: sometime between the time when I read the one-star reviews and now (prior to the publication of this post) one of said reviews disappeared.  not sure what happened there.  ah well. 

Owning My Awesome: 4 Key Tools for Writing a Novel in a Month


I blame my father-in-law.

He's the one who put the idea in my head, you see.  A screenplay and fiction writer (check out his stories here), one night as we gathered at his and my mother-in-law's house for dinner, he mentioned romance novels.

He knew a lady, he said, that was a good writer trying to self-publish her work, but no one was buying.  Then she'd heard how lucrative the romance fiction market was so, after doing a bit of research, she churned out a few romance novels of her own.  And -- they sold.  Like, a lot.  She's now completely sustained on income from her words.

I'd been missing writing when he told me this.  Writing fiction, that is.  Reading and writing stories has been in my blood since birth.  I studied creative writing in college, and have more than a few of my own NaNoWriMo novels, not to mention a host of poetry and short stories, under my belt. 


But I quit writing, back in early 2011.  Writing fiction had turned into a devastating trigger for my eating disorder.  It got to the point where the choice was between my health and my words.

I chose my health.  I walked away from fiction. Forever, I thought.

But I've been missing it.

So when my father-in-law mentioned romance fiction, I thought, why not?

Because romance novels are not serious.  They are fun and light and entertaining, even when there's conflict.  They end happily as a rule.

So I gave myself a month.  Try your hand at romance, I told myself.  Something you've never done before.  A genre you never dreamed you would writeNo pressure, no need for no one to ever read it.


And -- I did it. 

I did it.

Without triggering anything.

I wrote a damn novel, you guys.  And not a bad one either, if I do say so myself.

It'll be published soon.  June, I'm hoping.  I'll let you know when it's available.

And now -- I'm writing another one.

I'm writing books.  Sans triggers.

So what's different?  Why in 2011 was it a choice between life and living dead, a choice between fiction words and health, when now I'm sitting down nearly every day to churn out words and I'm okay?

A few things are different.  Big things.  Here they are -- my four key tools for writing that I didn't have (or didn't quite have) in 2011:

  1. Community.  I'm not writing in a vacuum anymore.  Okay, I wasn't writing in a vacuum in 2011, either.  I had a few writer friends I'd met through Twitter, and we cheered each other on.  But now I have a lot more community.  I have a digital family of Story Sisters (and seriously, this group is the bomb -- please check it out).   I have friends and family who know I'm working on a novel, who ask me how it's going and urge me on, people who I can complain to and celebrate with.  People who care.  This is vital.
  2. Accountability.  Accountability is an aspect of community, but is not the same.  It is more direct and deliberate than encouragement, and a little less nice (but no less kind).  It is more kick-you-in-the-ass and pass-the-chocolate than yay-let-me-hug-you.  I send my words every day to my husband, and update my word count here and with my amazing friend (who is also a writing coach).  I tell other friends I'm working on a novel.  I post my progress on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter.  I have people who will challenge me if I try to abandon my goal out of fear or boredom or {insert your favorite excuse here}.  These people are my word doulas, and I need them if I'm going to get through my book-birthing.
  3. Believing in myself.  This is something that I completely lacked in 2011, and is absolutely key.  I felt guilty for taking time to write, when I could be doing something more "productive."  You know, like working in a traditional job that, no matter how awesome it was, sucked all of this ISFP's energy and left nothing for my dreams and passions, or my loved ones.  And while I do have guilt now, too -- this time of the you-are-a-bad-mom variety -- I push it aside because a) I love doing this work, b) I believe in my words and these stories, and c) I am drive by the very real and optimistic hope of being able to provide for my family by working damn hard at something I love doing.  I'm owning my awesome.  Working on Made last year was huge in how it taught me that my ideas matter, can impact many, and can provide income for my family.
  4. Doing the work.  I am getting this shit done.  It's scary.  I procrastinate a lot, spend a good bit of time letting fear lead me to while away time on Facebook.  But when push comes to shove, I do the work.  I do it.  Every weekday, I send my sweet son to play at a drop-in childcare (which he adores -- no crying on the drop off with this guy) and hurry away to a nearby coffees shop where I spend a few hours punching out words.  That's where I am right now, in fact -- writing this post, and then getting to work.  In 2011, every morning I'd wake up and tremblingly wonder, "Will I write today?"  Now, this is not a question.  I will write today, and I will write 2,000 words today.  And then I go do it.  I guess that old "apply the seat of the butt to the seat of the chair" advice really works, huh?

That's how this mama churned out a light but textured and engaging romance novel in one month (stay tuned for its release -- June-ish!).  That's how I'm currently in the process of penning a delicious (and terrifying to write due to said deliciousness) novel loosely based on Celtic myth.  Has there been risk?  Oh yeah.  Paying for childcare, investing money in something that might come to nothing?  That's been scary, damn scary.

But it's also been worth it.  Even though our financial situation is tenuous at the moment, my husband fully supports my writing.  I'm following my dream.  The first big dream I ever, ever had (other big dreams included being a mega horse breeder, and becoming an astronaut and exploring the universe -- those are dreams currently on the back burner).  And that has meant everything.